Depression Community
10.5k Members
Avatar universal

Electric Shock Therapy

My sister has had shock therapy, and is now sounding "totally helpless", has selective memory, etc.   I was under the impression that this therapy is supposed to help "erase things" in the past..so you can handle the present and future better.  Is this true, or am I misinformed?
6 Responses
Avatar universal
ECT is strange in the sence that half the people I talk to said it helped them, and the other half say it was horrible and didn't work at all.

As far as ECT, I just don't know what to think anymore. Every person I talk to that has had ECT has a different story.
Yes it's different for everyone we all have different brains and bodies no one ever gets the same exact thing. Well similar but its different. It's confusing it really is I sometimes can't believe I got an induced seizure it scared me you don't feel it but I questioned what did I do to myself. I wrote a super long paragraph maybe at the bottom of the comments but take a look as my experience very odd very scary very intense. If I can only tell the details of what I felt and seen.
368886 tn?1466238884
Hello Murnee.

We have to consider a few things before we look for the results of Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). A few of these considerations are the diagnosis, the current treatment / medicines, response to the current treatment, age of the person and whether the medicines were changed or not after the ECT.

It is true that ECT causes some memory disturbances. But usually these memory disturbances last for a short period of time .... about a month after the treatment.

ECT is not meant for erasing things in the past. It can not do that. But it is found to help considerably in patients who do not see improvement with medicines. And a well managed post-ECT medicines regime can make sure the patient has a chance to recover and live a meaningful life.

As with any other treatment modality, ECT has its share of success and failure. A certain  group of patients may not feel any improvement even with ECT. In such cases, we have to consider various combinations of anti-depressants with / without ECT.

As far as the present memory disturbances of your sister are concerned, depending upon how long has it been after her ECT treatment, Donepezil 5mg can help.

Hope the reply was helpful to you. Please post any more queries you might have.

Abhijeet Deshmukh, MD

Avatar universal
Hi there,

ECT is still an experimental procedure, although doctors, including the guy on here, may claim otherwise.

Ask a doctor how it works and what it does and they cannot tell you. They will say it seems to help people but they don't tell you it will always affect memory. Some worse than others. Some lose large chunks, permanently. Others lose it briefly and become very confused until it returns.

ECT is not a permanent cure in any way. Most who do have it need what they call maintenance. An ECT treatment is not one session with one shock. It is between 6 and 12 shocks over a close number of days. Maintenance is likely needed within 6 months for most people.

As far as I can make out the "benefit" is in not being able to remember. You see ECT is the equivalent of severe concussion. Your brain is given a seizure. Several times over close days.

Can anyone here tell me that is safe and what it achieves? No, they can't.

The very best they will say is "It seems to help some".

They don't tell you how many end up with other side effects, such as constant headaches, migraines and no relief from depression at all.

Anyone agreeing to ECT is also required to sign a waiver agreeing that any damage done on the table is their responsibilty and neither the doctors or the hospital will pay for it. Why is that do you think?

Yes I'm very anti this "treatment" as I know it hurts people and the industry goes to great lengths to avoid telling us the truth.

Doctors do not offer it to us until we are begging for anything to help. That, in my opinion, is legally reprehensible. Unethical.

Doctors do it often because they think nothing else will help.

I was told that too and agreed to it but withdrew my agreement after my partner researched it. I was told it was my only option, 10 years ago. AFter 3 months of meds and talk I was back on the planet. Not cured, that ain't gonna happen for me but never have I been back to those depths. Without ECT. SO it is NOT the only option for anybody.

It is a quick, cheap fix to satisfy patients (and doctors) who are desperate and it also makes them more manageable.

Research it yourself, don't believe me. Please. Google it and read away. In nearly 10 years I have spoken to and contacted many, many people and it is rare that any of them say it has done anything except helped short term. None have said it cured anything and more have said it made their lives worse. Research it, please, and tell people what you find.

For your sister's sake it would be best to not relay this to her, not now at least. Rather I would wait and hope things improve. But I, you that is, should take steps to put on hold any further treatments as they don't get any better if they are damaged by the first one. Subsequent treatments will do more damage is the likely result.

Hopefully she is suffering short term loss and confusion which may settle down as she recovers from the trauma of such "treatment". Protect her, please as she is very vulnerable right now and cannot say no to a doctor.


At least you include some of the negatives but I'm shocked you make no mention of more long term and permanent memory loss. It happens and you know it does. Be honest. And what other side effects are you aware of please? Speak up, tell the truth.

Do you administer this "treatment" and if not how on earth can you say anything at all and use a doctor's title here?

As far as recovering memory problems there is no med that helps it return. Please withdraw that statement.

You say ECT is not meant for erasing things in the past. Well, it does do that mate, not for all and not permanently for all. But it certainly does erase memory, temp or permanent that is it's main effect.

How about you tell us what it does do and what is is for, in medical terms, instead of just saying "it helps" those who don't respond to meds. How and why please.

Come on, share your medical expertise and give us some facts.

Tell me why doctors will not allow prospective patients of ECT to talk to "succesful" patients treated by the same doctor? What better recommendation could there be? But none will allow it and claim privacy. Which is a lie as someone with depression who had a succesful recovery would tell anyone who wanted to know with no mention of privacy.

Speak up.
368886 tn?1466238884
Hello whodunnit.

I totally agree with each and every sentence that you have written here. And I have been visiting this forum for quite some time now. I really appreciate your responses. They are well written and based on research.

Yes, I do administer ECT myself. And I won't hesitate here to mention the other "side effects" of it. There could be possible prolonged seizure, bone fractures, tongue bites, skin burns, broken teeth (with the danger of a loose tooth being sucked into the airway and subsequent choking), etc. But we all take care. And the consent form that we have, mentions all these adverse effects. Memory loss is another area of concern. In "most of the cases", a short term memory loss is noted. But there are cases noted in the literature, and even we have seen cases of long term memory disturbances.

But with the 'modified ECT', these risks are significantly reduced.

We can not tell that ECT will always affect memory. And he reason is simple. ECT does not always cause memory loss! And we have systematic reviews to prove that. But yes, we always inform the patient about the possible memory loss. A possible short term loss, or a possible long term loss.

And this is true even with medicines. There is a list of side effects and adverse drug reactions for each and every drug. And the list should be narrated to each patient who receives the medicine.

How these treatment options are put forward to the patient matters a lot. And as you would agree, not all do it the way we want them to do it.

As far as this thread is concerned, it is more important to know some more details about the ECT treatment sessions received by the person in question.

That's all I have to say right now.


Abhijeet Deshmukh, MD
Avatar universal
i am not a Dr, But i am a firm believer-that one should not be given shock treatments. i have worked in a mental institution,back  when some people were maybe given to many  ECT treatments, and they were finally called burnt outs, such a horrible name, but i never seen anyone benifit from one, maybe some have, i hope so I know this one lady who is now in her 60, she was given many ECT treatments, just because she was an alcoholic, or so her fanily thought, she lost her husband he shot himself because he had cancer, the bad thing is that he did it in front of her, and she said that is when she started to drink, her dad had money, and she was sent many places, and it did not help, he finally sent her to the state mental hosp, and that was where the shock treatments started, they did not help, but a friend did she started going to aa, she wanted to quit for her childrens sake and she has been sober 29 years, back then i do not believe the Dr really knew just how bad shock treatments worked or maybe they did, but i have seen to many that they did not help, and they never got well from whatever the problem was, and i have seen many people get better after seing a good DR or councelor or even group therapy, i think if a person has someone to just talk to a stranger it can help them more than ECT Mental illness has come a long way from when they first got sick and were sent to prisons in chains and shackles, during my life i have seen many people with a mental illness some were helped, some were not, no one can tell what goes on in another persons mind and it takes someone that really cares about people to help them, and i do care about people, that was my lifes work, but this is my personal opinion and in no way,do i mean to insult A Dr opinion or anyone elses opinion, i just personally do not believe in ECT This treatment also was given to state hosp  patients many many years ago, when they did not need the Patients consent or thei guardians, i am glad that it has change, now they have to have consent, also when my mother worked with the mentally ill thorazine and mellarill was just about all they had to give amd it was liquid, also the patient were not given any medication for pain when they recievd ECT, I am glad now they have something, medicine has come along way just as every thing else has, i do hope that your sister can get the help she needs by some professional people that care, and do know what to do, I have been told that there is no cure for mental illness, but they can be helped and go on to lead a very productive life, I myself belive that to cure something you have to face it first and find the cause and go from there,i may be wrong, but to block something out, it seems you would have flash backs I wish you both lots of luck and happiness  jo
Avatar universal
To me I didn't loose any memories but I felt lost and confused. I had to watch a video before I did Ect some ppl loose memories of dear memories but I didn't loose any. I don't think you loose memory I think you just deeply forget and things you will soon remember down the road. If that was the case i would like to erase my whole past so I don't think about it no more.The thing to me about loosing your memory is that you wont be able to get therapy help to deal with past issues that caused you depression or anxiety. Even though your memories are gone your emotions still live and can take a turn with no evidence of anything currently happening like me I don't necessarily think of the past no more not really certain things have been dealt with but the emotional part is still there. I sometimes want to do ect again the full 12 but I am scared it did give me some kind of realization about myself a part I couldn't see before which was myself my face I felt my being! But the thing is to let ppl know Ect causes Hallucinations as well. I have a total of 3 or 4 ect and I was in the hospital admitted and first time I couldn't remember were I was and felt like I was being drugged on top of that I felt like the psych ward was some kind of maze very scary things going on. I never had hallucinations ever in my life and let me tell you these made me feel like it was real I still question everything. Hallucinations happen with ETC they do but I feel its rare because Ive only seen 1 person on the internet on another web site her husband had confusion and hallucinations. I left the hospital still hulcinating I still have the smells and feelings and some memory of it and everything felt real. It was scary I left screaming in the street and neighbors faces looked just like the doctor who suggested ect. I only had 3 or 4 it did seem to make me feel different about myself when I looked in the mirror I felt so real it was unexplainable because being depressed you detach yourself from all happiness and all you feel is this cloud of loss of everything no hope. I went in wanting to die that was what I wanted and that's what I wanted. No one can convience me other wise. Anyway your supposed to have 12 and those matience ones 1 every month I was too scared to have anymore. Sometimes I want to go back to that ward and see if that was real those hallucination. I had a panic attack for the first time just recently my ect was back in December 2016. I had a panic attack and I actually ended up in the emergency room and was there over night and the person who came to check on me was actually one of the ladies from the ward and I was paranoid I can smell that stench that scary cold dark smell and I didn't want to tell her anything about me feeling suicidal to lock me back up in there she looked scary and just that vibe made me feel as if it was really real it may be in some form. Ect like it's a very scary process I came out also feeling like Omygosh I had a seizure Omygosh and I was freaking out wondering what happened to me why I was confused telling the nurses have I seen you before on top of that the freakishness of the hallucinations I need to really sit down and put myself back in that hallucination to remember details because I get flashes of moments of it!
Have an Answer?
Top Mood Disorders Answerers
Avatar universal
Arlington, VA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
15 signs that it’s more than just the blues
Discover the common symptoms of and treatment options for depression.
We've got five strategies to foster happiness in your everyday life.
Don’t let the winter chill send your smile into deep hibernation. Try these 10 mood-boosting tips to get your happy back
Smoking substitute may not provide such a healthy swap, after all.
How to lower your heart attack risk.